A vanity metric is an indicator whose purpose is to reassure you, but which is neither actionable nor comparable.
This is a statistic that does not necessarily translate into tangible, meaningful business results.
For example, the number of followers on social networks or the number of views of a promotional video. While the data may seem impressive, these metrics don't accurately reflect an organization's key drivers (e.g. active users, engagement, cost of acquiring new customers, etc.) and provide very little insight. information about how a product or initiative relates to broader business goals.
How to identify a vanity metric?
Marketing teams can easily fall into the trap of vanity metrics. It's easy to see why: They make you feel good, but they're not necessarily important to the success of your product.
Here are 5 telltale signs that you might be measuring a vanity metric:
- The indicator lacks substance
- It's too easy to measure
- This indicator ignores nuances and context
- It can mislead you because it is often misleading
- The indicator does not help you improve your product or your business in a significant way.
The importance of context
Context is key. Without it, the indicator has little real value.
For example, indicators that can easily fall into this category are:
-The total number of customers
-Total purchases or downloads
-Number of social media followers
-Number of new users
Without proper context or showing how a metric relates to overall business goals (OKRs), teams can easily fall into the trap of vanity metrics. We can therefore see that whether an indicator is qualified as a vanity metric or not depends on the organization of a company and its commercial objectives.
5 reasons to downplay the importance of vanity metrics
Reason 1: Vanity metrics flatter the ego (personal or collective)
Vanity metrics are indicators that make you look good in the eyes of others. However, vanity metrics do not help you understand your performance to influence future strategies. These metrics are great if you want to appear to be improving, but they're not actionable and aren't tied to something you can meaningfully control or repeat.
Reason 2: Vanity metrics often cause a team to rest on its laurels
Vanity metrics are superficial and often misunderstood. They often lead a team to rest on its laurels rather than digging into the data to obtain more interesting information to improve the marketing or social media strategy of the company.
Reason 3: Vanity metrics often overshadow important (real) indicators.
Monitoring unimportant indicators is often done to the detriment of others, which are more important, even decisive when making an important decision. Indeed, it is more reassuring for a marketer to highlight good figures and hide those that are less good.
Reason 4: Vanity metrics = Danger to marketing strategy
As we have seen, vanity metrics can focus attention on unimportant elements. This can lead marketing teams to forget their original goals and veer off course.
Reason 5: Vanity metrics = Business Risk
Beyond the real risk that exists for the social media and marketing teams, there is also a risk for the company more generally.
Indeed, it is the entire “decision chain” that may be impacted by the fact that important information is concealed.
The only way to avoid this is to link an indicator to the general objectives of the company (OKR). This is how management teams will make informed decisions about the direction of a marketing strategy, product, or business.